I have been completely taken by the textiles here. They’re vibrant and colorful, seemingly simple patterns meld to form complex ones. I can’t help walking through the night market and want every single piece of fabric I see. But I restrain myself, because I’m a little limited for space in my backpack. Not to mention funny money. Funny money: worse than credit cards.
I was so excited when I found out that I could take a weaving class in Luang Prabang and learn from local master weavers. Forget the cricket loom; Freshy went full speed ahead with the floor loom. And it was AWESOME. I rarely put things in caps, people. This was AWESOME. Oh, look, I did it again. On this journey of self discovery and whatever, I have decided two things: One, I want a puppy. Two, I want a floor loom. Ok, the order is actually reversed. I need a floor loom. I need it now. I need it real bad. It has to be the second most addicting craft I’ve picked up next to knitting.
Because it’s low season I was the only person in my class (not that I was complaining…). The first thing I learned about was where they get their silk from and how they dye it. They use the silk made from the Bombyx Mori Silkworm, which can produce over 300 meters of silk filament per cocoon.
They dyes that they use are all natural and come from tree bark, tree leaves, insect resin, fruits, and seeds. They combine them with mordants (component that sets the dye) which can be lye, limestone, mud, ash water and iron.
I got to dye three small skeins of silk. We picked the leaves and the seeds from their garden and got to work boiling them in water, mixing them with the mordant and soaking the yarn in them.
I have only ever dyed yarn at the Knot Hysteria retreats, so this was a great contrast to that. It was amazing to see how the silk took the colors. The water from the seeds was bright red, but as you can see, it produced a very bright orange skein.
Before we started with the weaving lesson, I got a tour of their workshop, where many local women are employed and weave a variety of fabrics. Some were weaving simple scarves and some were doing amazingly complex tapestries. Each movement they made was swift and with purpose. There was no wasted energy that I could tell and they were cookin’! Even as they were working, though, they were talking and laughing amongst themselves, and it made me really miss craft nights with my friends.
When I sat at my loom, I was absolutely bewildered. What are all these strings?! How does this work?! Why do my edges suck?! It was definitely a crash course on weaving, but it was so much fun and so rewarding to see the pattern motif take shape on my scarf.
I had a weaving master help me along the way and a translator there to explain what I was doing. I definitely fumbled through for most of it and it took two days to complete the scarf. I believe it would have only taken the master about half that time, if that. I took so many pictures of the loom, because I want to be able to go home and see if I can remember how it all works. The translator told me that just to set up the loom, it takes them about 2 days for a scarf and about a week if they are weaving a large tapestry!
The textile patterns that they weave depict stories of Nagas (a mythological water serpent with magical powers), or of spirits traveling to the afterworld. Girls would weave items as a dowry to give to their groom’s family or to boys that they wanted to seek affection from (all I can say is that boy better deserve it!).
This is it! The edges are gross, and the picture doesn’t really capture the color correctly, but I made it! And it has led me down another hobby hole, from which I don’t think I shall ever return from. Seriously, you guys don’t even get how much enjoyment I got out of weaving. So priority number one when I get home: procure floor loom.